Mga Archive ng Tag: kamatayan

Primal Soul

One simple way of reinstating an absolute form of morality (as opposed to a relative, risk-reward kind) is to postulate continuity beyond death. The notion of a “kaluluwa,” as proposed in almost all religions, serves this purpose. Soul is also the substantive (albeit ethereal) representation of the otherwise elusive consciousness of ours, which is an entity that has no right to exist or be real because it fails all possible tests for real existence, yet is supremely real to each one of us. Sa katunayan, consciousness is more than real, it is the arena in which our reality plays out its act. It is so fundamental to our experience and existence that we have a hard time accepting its ephemerality.

Ako, para sa isa, believe logically that when I die, everything I will have known and experienced till then will just disappear. I believe that death is like an eternal dreamless sleep. Logically. But logic has very little to do with what I can feel and accept, emotionally. I don’t like to drag in the concept of “emotion” dito; I am thinking of what I can accept at a gut-level. “Primally” would perhaps be a better word to use, but I am not sure. Any way, once we have conscious awareness, and develop a sense of temporal continuity about things and experiences around us, we cannot help assigning continuity to the backdrop of it all — our consciousness. Continuity of selfhood is encoded into our mind. Primally — oo, that would be the right word.

Logic and rationality, which come after the primal plumbing of the mind, malay, selfhood etc. (which may all ultimately mean the same thing) is already in place, can influence our thinking only to a limited extent. Mind grasps at anything that offers a semblance of eternal continuity. Enter religions.

All conventional religions have some notion of a “kaluluwa,” which comes in different forms and with a multitude of meanings and contexts, although, logically, it can only mean our consciousness, or an entity holding our consciousness and pretty much nothing else. Thanks to our primal need to search and find continuity, we readily buy into whatever notion of soul our parents’ religion happens to uphold, ignoring the gaping holes in logic associated with it. From the perspective of religions (speaking of religions as organizational entities with intentions and purposes), the notion of continuity implied in the concept of a soul has a great benefit — it completely alters the risk-reward analysis at the root of morality. And it takes out death (or at least, greatly diminishes its significance) in the analysis. For death is only the beginning, as the horror-comedy taught us.

If the wages of sin are eternal third-degree burns, not some material comfort followed by thirty-to-life in a federal facility till death sets you free, you do think twice before doing the crime. Ang “oras” that you may have to do could well be an eternity. Other religions offer other kinds of divine carrots and sticks. Halimbawa, if you are a Hindu engaged in a particularly unsavory Karma, you will reincarnate as somebody (o isang bagay) on the receiving end of the stick, roughly neutralizing your risk-reward equation. Sa kabilang banda, if you are willing to take it on your chin with some amount of fortitude, you will be upgraded to business class in your next life.

In all notions of spiritual continuity of consciousness, and/or soul, there is something I find logically wanting. It is the lack of continuity of memory. Death is still a point of phase transition where all the existing memory is erased. If we think of soul as the eternal manifestation of mind and consciousness, erasing its memory is as good or as bad as killing it, is it not?

What I find interesting in this Hindu notion is that the ultimate reward for presumably the best possible Karma is not an eternal life of comfort in heaven, but a release from the cycle of reincarnations, kung saan, sa aking pagtingin, is similar to an eternal dreamless sleep — which is the only logical notion of death we can scientifically entertain. Kaya, in the Hindu notion of the reward for ultimate good is, in some sense, the ultimate death. Makes me wonder…

From Here to Eternity

Ang temporal na aspeto ng kaparusahan nagpalawak sa kabila ng span sa pagitan ng krimen at kaparusahan sa kaniya. Ang kalubhaan ng parusa ay din sinusukat sa mga tuntunin ng kanyang duration. At ang kamatayan ay naglalagay ng isang tiyak na pagtatapos sa lahat na ginawa ng tao durations. Ito panghihimasok ng kamatayan sa ating temporal horizons messes up kung ano ang ibig sabihin namin sa pamamagitan ng proporsyonal kaparusahan, kung saan ay ang dahilan sa likod ng pangkalahatang kawalan ng kasiyahan sa Madoff mahabang pangungusap. Kung ang isang mabigat na sala na parang gago pagpatay nagdudulot ng tungkol sa lamang ng isang buhay-pangungusap, at kung alam mo na “buhay” nangangahulugan lamang ng ilang mga buwan o kaya, pagkatapos ay ang kaparusahan sa at ng kanyang sarili ay hindi kaya ng deterring krimen. At kapag ang krimen ay hindi bilang walang saysay, ngunit sinenyasan sa pamamagitan ng maingat na pagsasaalang-alang na materyal, ito ay isang sinadya panganib-gantimpala pagtatasa na tumutukoy kanyang komisyon. Ang isang komprehensibong panganib-gantimpala analysis ay magdawit, Isipin ko, isang pagsasaalang-alang ng ang posibilidad ng pagtuklas, ang intensity at tagal ng ang mga potensyal na parusa, at ang oras ang isa ay upang tamasahin ang mga spoils at / o magdusa ang parusa. Maaaring may iba pang mga kadahilanan upang isaalang-alang, oo naman. hindi ko alam dahil hindi ko talaga tapos na tulad ng pinag-aaralan. Hindi pa.

Ang kuwento smallpox ko nabanggit mas maaga ay nagdudulot mga pagsasaalang-alang sa foreground, kasama ang kung paano ang relatibong mataas na posibilidad ng kamatayan mula sa sakit na nakakaapekto ang mga ito. Pag-alam na doon ay hindi karaming oras upang masiyahan sa buhay (o mukha ang music), dalawang mas lumang mga ginoo ng kuwento magpasya upang pumunta at kapistahan sa kanilang sarili sa isang lokal na kalapating mababa ang lipad ng village na kanilang nai-eying para sa isang habang. Ito ay hindi na ang mga kahihinatnan (spousal galit, masamang sakit etc.) ng kanilang mga pagkilos ay nagbago. Lamang na ang kanilang mga potensyal na duration ay nabawasan drastically dahil sa pag-aalsa ng smallpox. Kaalaman ng ating kamatayan ay may isang madula epekto sa ating moral inhibitions ipinanganak sa labas ng mga pinag-aaralan panganib-gantimpala.

Ito ay sa liwanag na ito na kami ay may upang suriin clichéd pahayag tulad ng, “Manirahan sa sa kasalukuyan sandali,” o “Live araw-araw na parang ito ay ang iyong huling.” Ano ang mga pahayag na ito tunay na ibig sabihin? Ang ikalawang isa ay lalong kawili-wili dahil ito ay gumagawa ng isang direktang sanggunian sa kamatayan. Ito ba ay nagtatanong sa amin upang malaglag ang aming inhibitions vis-à-vis ang lahat ng aming mga aksyon? Kung gayon, ito ay maaaring hindi tulad ng isang positibong imbitasyon (kung saan, oo naman, ay isang pahayag ng halaga-paghatol emanating form ng isang pakiramdam ng pagkakaroon ng isang moralidad ng hindi kilalang pinagmulan). O maaaring ito ay isang simpleng pangaral na hindi mang-abala — isang positibong bagay sa pamamagitan ng parehong hindi tiyak moralidad.

“Buhay sa kasalukuyan” ay kahit na mas puzzling. Ako hulaan ito ay mula sa Zen paniwala ng “dito” at “ngayon.” Maaari ko bang uri ng maunawaan ang Zen paniwala sa mga tuntunin ng mga nagbibigay-malay Neuroscience, bagaman na ay ang uri ng bagay na Zen ay hilingin sa amin na hindi na gawin — pag-unawa sa isang bagay sa mga tuntunin ng iba pang dahilan. Ayon sa Zen school, isang karanasan ay dapat assimilated bago ang pag-iisip ay may isang pagkakataon upang kulayan ito sa mga tuntunin ng preconceived notions at mga filter. Sa ganap na katahimikan ng isang isip, siguro dala ng taon ng pagsisiyasat ng sarili at matinding mediation, karanasan kumuha sa perceptually tumpak at intellectually uncolored forms, na sinasabi nila ay isang magandang bagay. Kung ang pangungusap “Manirahan sa sa kasalukuyan sandali” ay tumutukoy sa mode na ito ng nakakaranas ng buhay, pagmultahin, ang maaari kong pumunta sa na, kahit na hindi ko lubos na maunawaan ito dahil ako ay hindi isang Zen master. At kung ako ay, Ako marahil ay hindi mag-alala masyadong maraming tungkol sa logically pag-unawa mga bagay-bagay. Ang kaunawaan ay lamang ng isang naligaw ng landas intelektwal ehersisyo sa pagkawalang-saysay.

Bilang isang moral na pahayag, gayunman, ang imbitasyong ito upang manirahan sa sa kasalukuyan sandali ay umalis magkano na ninanais. Ito ba ay isang imbitasyon upang huwag pansinin ang mga kahihinatnan ng iyong mga aksyon? compartmentalize mo ang iyong timeline sa isang malaking nakalipas, isang malaking hinaharap at maliliit na kasalukuyan. balewalain mo ang nakaraan at ang hinaharap, at manirahan sa sa kasalukuyan. Walang pagsisisi. No anxieties. Ano pa ang magagawa ito slogan “Manirahan sa sa kasalukuyan sandali” ibig sabihin?

Why Should I Be Good?

Knowledge of death is a sad thing. Not as a general piece of information, but in as applied to a particular individual. I remember only too vividly my own sense of helplessness and sadness towards the end of my father’s life, when it became clear to me that he had only a few weeks left. Until then, I could never really understand the grief associated with death of a loved one, given the absolute certainty and naturalness of death. Sa katunayan, I couldn’t understand my own grief and often wondered if I was romanticizing it, or feeling it because it was expected of me.

It is very difficult to know people, even ourselves. There are multiple obscuring levels of consciousness and existence in our inner selves. And we can penetrate only a limited number of them to see within ourselves. Therefore I find myself doubting my grief, despite its directly perceived realness and existence. Perhaps the grief arising from the loss of a loved one is so primal that we do not need to doubt it; but I cannot help doubting even the most obvious of feelings and sensations. Pagkatapos ng lahat, I am the dude who goes around insisting that reality is unreal!

Ang “lossof a hated one, by virtue of its mathematical symmetry, should generate something like the opposite of grief. The opposite of grief is perhaps glee, although one is too civilized to let oneself feel it. Ngunit sineseryoso, I once heard a stress reduction expert mention it. Sinabi niya, “What if your boss stresses you out? Imagine, end of the day, he also will be dead!”

Oo, the fact that we will all die is a serious social and moral problem. How much of a problem it is is not fully appreciated due to the taboo nature of the subject. I once read a novel in Malayalam describing a village in the sixties ravaged by smallpox. Some parts of this novel illustrated the connection between death and morality. Ang makikita mo, morality is such a holy cow that we cannot examine it, much less question it, without being called all sorts of bad names. Being “mabuti” is considered a “mabuti” bagay, and is taken to be beyond rationalization. Ibig kong sabihin, we may ask questions like, “What is good?”, “What makes something good, something else bad?” atbp. But we cannot realistically ask the question, “Why should I be good?” Being good is just good, and we are expected to ignore the circularity in this statement.

For a minute, let’s not assume that being good is good. I think the knowledge of imminent death would make us shed this assumption, but we will get to it later. For now, let’s think of morality as a logical risk-reward calculation, rather than a god-given axiom. If somebody proposes to you, “Why don’t you shoot to be a drug dealer? [Pun attempted] Good money there…,” your natural reaction would be, “Drugs kill people, killing people is bad, no way I am getting into it.” Ngayon, that is a moral stance. If you were amoral, you may think, “Drug dealing involves violence. There is a good chance that I will get shot or caught. Thirty to life in a federal penitentiary is no walk in the park. No way I am getting into it.This is a risk-reward analysis, but with the same end result.

I put it to you that the origin of most of our morality is this risk-reward analysis. If it wasn’t, why would we need the police and the criminal justice system? It is this risk-reward analysis that can get skewed because of an impending death, if we let ourselves notice it. Ang makikita mo, the concept of crime and punishment (or action and consequence, to be value-neutral) is not so simple, like most things in real life. To be a deterrent, the severity of punishment has to be proportional, not only to the foulness of the crime, but also to the probability of its detection. Halimbawa, if you know that you will get caught every single time you speed, speeding tickets need not cost you thousands of dollarsa couple of dollars will do the trick of discouraging you from speeding. Such minuscule punishments do exist for littlecrimes.In public toilets, leaving the shower or sink faucet running would be a small crime because it wastes water, and the landlord’s funds. To fight this crime came spring-loaded faucets that shut themselves down after ten or 15 seconds. So you getcaughtevery time you try to leave the water running, but the “punishmentis merely that you have to push the release button again. Now we have faucets with electronic sensors with even shorter temporal horizons for crime and punishment.

The severity of a pain is not merely its intensity, but its duration as well. Given that death puts a definitive end to our worldly durations, how does it affect our notion of punishment commensurate with crime? My third post on the philosophy of death will examine that aspect.

Ang Taboo Paksa

Death is a taboo subject. We are not supposed talk about it, or even think about it. It is almost like if we did, death might take notice of us, and we can do without that kind of attention. If we want to be inconspicuous anywhere at all, it is in front of Death.

I have been watching Six Feet Under recently, which is probably behind these musings on death. I am curious though — why is the topic of death such a taboo, despite its natural inevitability? I don’t mean the superstitious kind of taboo (“Huwag, hindi, hindi, you are not going to die any time soon, touchwood!”), but the intellectual kind. The kind of chill that comes about if you try holding a conversation about it over a beer or at a dinner table. Why is death such a taboo?

To say that we are just scared of death is a bit of an oversimplification. Sure we fear death, but we fear public speaking more, but we can still talk about the latter. We have to find the reason for the special tabooness of death elsewhere.

One thing special about death is that it is a great equalizer — a fact almost too obvious to appreciate. Everybody dies — regardless of whatever else they do in their lives. Perhaps this ultimate leveling of the field may be a bit distressing to the more competitive among us. However high we soar, or however low we sink, at the end of our days, the score is all reset and the slate is wiped clean.

This slate-wiping business also is troublesome for another reason. It is so damn permanent. Its permanence has an aspect never present in any other kind of pain and suffering we go through (including public speaking). One of my personal techniques to handle minor aches and pains (such as a root canal, or even deeper wounds like the loss of a loved one) is to make use of just this lack of permanence. I remind myself that it is going to pass, sa madaling panahon. (For some strange reason, I do this in French, “Ça va pas tarder,” although, to be correct, I think I should be telling myself, “Ça va pas durer.”) I even shared this technique with my son when he broke his arm and was in excruciating pain. I told him that the agony would soon abate. Mahusay, I said it using different words, and I fancy the little fellow understood, although he kept screaming his head off.

We can handle any “normal” pain by just waiting it out, but not the pain of death, which lasts for ever. Ça va durer. Is this permanence behind our fear of it? Marahil na. With absolute permanence comes absolute imperviousness, as any Spiderman fan would appreciate. What lies beyond death is unknown. And unknowable. Despite all the religions of the world telling us various mystical things about what lies beyond (alam mo, like heaven and hell, Karma and reincarnation etc.), nobody really believes it. Alam ko, Alam ko, some may honestly insist that they really really do, but when push comes to shove, at an instinctive, gut level, nobody does. Not even the ones who are certain that they will end up in heaven. Why else would holy men have security details? Sa Ng Human Bondage, Maugham caricatures this strange lack (or impossibility) of real faith vis-à-vis death in his portrayal of the last days of the Vicar of Blackstable.

To live with any sense of purpose, I think we have to ignore death. A finite span of existence is just absurd at multiple levels. It makes all our lofty goals and ideals absurd. It makes our sense of good and evil absurd. It makes whatever we think of as the purpose of life absurd. It even makes the modest purpose of life proposed in the DNA-based evolutionary explanation (that we just want to live a little longer) absurd, for any finite increment in our life span is essentially zero when compared to the infinity of time, as the nerdy ones among us would readily appreciate. Sa maikling salita, there is only one real problem with life, which is death. Since we cannot avoid dying and paying taxes, may be we can avoid thinking and talking about it — a plausible reason behind the taboo nature of the topic of death.

Kandila na Burns Bright

Ang isang kaklase ng mina mula sa IIT ang pumasa ang layo ng ilang mga araw ang nakalipas. Kapag narinig ko ang kasindak-sindak balita, Nais kong magsulat ng isang bagay tungkol sa kanya. Ano ang dumating sa isip ay isang pares ng mga disjointed mga alaala, at naisip ko na gusto kong ibahagi ang mga ito dito. Para sa takot na nagiging sanhi ng higit pang mga sakit sa mga malapit sa kanya, Ako ay panatilihin ang lahat ng mga pagtukoy ng mga sanggunian sa isang lantad na minimum.

Ginamit namin na tumawag sa kanya PJ — isang acronym para sa isang mildly nakakainsulto na expression, na marahil ay nagkaroon ng pinagmulan nito sa aming akademikong inggit. PJ ay academically makinang, at nagtapos sa tuktok ng isang klase na puno ng halos pathologically mapagkumpitensya at maliwanag IITians. Ito intensity na dinala siya sa papasan sa mas superhuman ay bahagi ng aking unang memory.

Problema sa pamamagitan ng ito intensity, namin sa sandaling nabuo ang isang paglalaan i-apela upang mas mahusay na likas na katangian ng PJ. Hindi ko naaalalang na pinasimulan ito, o kahit sino ay doon sa delegasyon. Ngunit ito ay tiyak na pakiramdam ng tulad ng isang bagay na Lux o daga gagawin; o Kutty, marahil, kung magagawa naming makuha sa kanya upang gumawa ng anumang bagay sa lahat. Gayon pa man, Nilapitan kami PJ at hiniling na kunin siya madali. “Ano ang malaking deal, tao? Mabagal at matatag mananalo sa karera, kilala mo.” Tugon ni PJ ay isang kapansin-opener. “Oo naman,” sinabi niya, “ngunit mabilis at matatag ay mas mahusay!”

Ako ba na ito ng mabilis at galit na galit mong bilis ng kinang PJ ay dinala siya ng maraming mga well-Karapat accolades sa ibang pagkakataon sa isang panghabang buhay na marahil pinakamahusay na sinusukat sa mga tuntunin ng kalidad nito sa halip na dami, epekto sa halip na longevity. Ngunit PJ ay hindi kailanman isang all-work-at-walang-play na mga kapwa. Natatandaan ko isang beses kapag ang MardiGras batang babae ay dumating sa Mandak dining hall (“magpakaabala nang walang kapararakan”) kumain. Pag-aaral ang mga ito gamit na hapless kataimtiman na maaaring ganap na Pinahahalagahan lamang ng mga kapwa IITian, namin ang nagtalakay sa pag-unlad sa PJ. Sinabi niya, “Oo, gusto naming gulo sa kanila!”

IIT ang nangyari sa amin sa isang edad kapag pagkakaibigan ay dumating madali at ang mga bono palsipikado nagtutulog malakas. Gamit ang PJ nawala at ang mga koneksyon ng kaunti weaker, Pakiramdam ko ay isang bit ng unraveling. At ang mapanglaw salita na tumawag sa aking isip ipaalala sa akin — magtanong hindi para kung kanino ang kampanilya toll, ito toll para sa iyo.

PJ ay isang makinang na tao. Umaasa ako na ang kanyang kinang ay magiging pinagmumulan ng lakas at tapang sa mga malapit sa kanya. Alam mo kung ano ang kanilang sasabihin, kandila na Burns dalawang beses na mas maliwanag na Burns kalahati hangga't. Gamit ang isa sa aming mga pinakamaliwanag na kandila nagniningas out, kung ano sa tingin ko ay isang pakiramdam ng pagkakaroon ng ilang mga kadiliman pababang sa isang lugar malayo.

Larawan ni armin_vogel cc